City Will Explore Bike-Sharing Program
One year after a nonprofit group hosted a five-day bicycle-sharing experiment, the New York City Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday that it was considering creating such a program on a permanent basis.
“If feasible and adopted, such a program would create a network of publicly accessible bicycles at minimal cost, and could provide an important transportation link at transit hubs and commercial and social areas greatly increasing mobility citywide,” the department said in a news release.
The announcement signaled yet another example of how the Bloomberg administration is trying to find ways to ease congestion and vehicle emissions and make the city’s streets more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists, despite the defeat in Albany of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s ambitious congestion pricing proposal, which would have charged drivers $8 a day for operating vehicles in the most congested parts of the city.
Bike-share programs have existed in Paris, Copenhagen, Vancouver, Barcelona and Milan, but only a few American cities, including Washington, D.C., have tried it.
The experiment last year, the New York Bike-Share Project, was run by a nonprofit group, the Forum for Urban Design. Twenty bicycles were available free, for up to 30 minutes, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bicycles could be dropped off at a handful of locations in and around Greenwich Village.
“New York is a world-class city for biking, and we are looking to build a world-class bike network,” said the city’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, in a statement. “The number of bike commuters has increased 77 percent since 2000. We now have more than 300 miles of on-street bike lanes, more than 5,000 bike racks, and have distributed more than 15,000 bicycle helmets. Alongside this infrastructure investment, we continue to look for new ways to reach our goal of doubling the number of bicycle commuters.”
The city formally issued a “request for expressions of interest,” seeking proposals from companies and other groups interested in implementing a bike-sharing program “to serve both recreational and multi-modal transportation purposes.”
The request notes that the most successful bike-sharing programs in other cities around the world have involved minimal or no costs to bike users and networks of bike stations extensive enough to support a wide range of short trips across neighborhoods. The department said in the news release:
Users either pay a per-use fee to access a bicycle at a bike station (normally, near a mass transit hub) or they hold an annual membership which allows them regular access to the public bicycles. Users are then able to return the bicycles to any station in the system. Common uses are for commuting, recreation, quick trips, and travel between transit stations, resulting in an overall reduction in the use of motor vehicles. The bicycles used in the program often include unique markings or coloring to distinguish them from privately-owned bicycles.
Companies or organizations responding to the request were asked to estimate the size of the potential market, as well as proposals for stations, equipment, fee structures, technology and related costs.
The city estimates that just 1 percent of commuter trips in the city are made by bicycle; as part of a strategic plan known as Sustainable Streets, the Department of Transportation hopes to double that proportion by 2015 and triple it by 2020.